Parents of students of color with disabilities should be grateful that, unlike her predecessors, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos prioritizes evidence over ideology. Two days before President Barack Obama left office, his Department of Education issued a regulation that would have systematically pressured school districts to deny minority students their rights. But fortunately, after delaying the regulation to study the issue further, and despite a setback from the courts, DeVos appears poised to defang the deeply misguided Equity in Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) regulation.
Equity in IDEA is intended to solve the “problem” of minority overrepresentation in special education. African-American students, for example, represent 16 percent of students overall but 21 percent of the special education student population. Civil rights advocates were convinced that this overrepresentation was a product of institutional racism.
In response to this perceived problem, Equity in IDEA requires states to establish a standard statistical methodology for identifying “significant disproportionality” in special education identification rates, classroom placement and discipline by race or ethnicity. If a school district shows significant overrepresentation, then — regardless of whether there is any finding that adults are making biased decisions — the school district would be publicly labeled as having significant disproportionality and forced to reallocate 15 percent of its IDEA Part B federal funding to early interventions intended to produce greater statistical parity.
Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of a new report, Safe and Orderly Schools: Updated Guidance on School Discipline. Follow him on Twitter here.
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